by Samantha Capps
“How do I master / the perfect day? / Six glasses of water / Seven phone calls” – “It’s Not Up to You,” Björk
If you asked me, I’d tell you my perfect day looked like this: I wake up, go for a run, make a good, healthy breakfast for myself, go to work at my library job, eat a good, healthy lunch, work hard and well and with joy, come home to a house/apartment (it really doesn’t matter) that has lots of plants and lots of sunlight, eat a good, healthy dinner with someone I love, and have time in the evening to read, write, meditate, watch a movie, call a friend, spend time with someone I care about, and go to sleep for a full seven to eight hours next to someone I love, but not before writing in my journal.
Though I know I am young and still have (one would hope) plenty of time to create my perfect day, but I find myself getting so frustrated with how little my life matches up with my ideal. Yes, I have a library job, which I love and am very thankful for (I try to think about how thankful I am for this job during my walk from my parking lot to the library. Sometimes I forget just how awesome an opportunity this gig is for me.), but it’s only part-time, so I’m doing a lot of work on the side for my dad for extra money and searching for either a second part-time job or a full-time library job. Money is a constant problem for me. I have an apartment, which I got while I was still working full-time before my joints decided to start hurting me, forcing me to quit my very physically intense second job. I am paying my rent and my electric and internet and student loan bills and my gas, but my mother is still taking care of my car insurance and my phone bill. I want to save money so I can go to grad school mostly financially independent, but with my current circumstances, saving is practically impossible. I feel guilty over about every dollar I spent. I seriously spent a good five minutes earlier this week debating whether or not to buy string beans because I want to cut down as much spending as I possibly can (I eventually decided to buy the string beans, but the market near my library where I was going to buy them ended up being closed due to an emergency. Life is funny.) I was recently turned down for a job at a YMCA, but even if I had gotten the job I would have said no because it required me to work four pm to nine pm Monday through Friday, which I would have loathed. I want to make money, but I don’t want to sacrifice my well-being to do so.
I’m eating better than I ever have before in my life. For the past three months, I’ve had three eggs, a banana, and oatmeal for breakfast, as opposed to my usual sugary cereal, and it’s made a big difference. I haven’t stuck with diet change for this long ever before, and it feels great. But I get lazy with my other meals. I still eat Big Macs when I’m in a rush and when my roommate is too busy to cook real food for us, I make Rice-a-Roni or canned soup for dinner.
And my greatest qualms are in my non-working-or-eating time. Sometimes I can go a whole week where I can keep my daily goals. I WILL meditate twenty minutes a day (it really does make a difference if done regularly). I WILL write for thirty minutes every day. I WILL go for a walk every day. I WILL make a dent in my reading list every day. I WILL update this website every week. I WILL work on the three self-help workbooks I am working through every day. But inevitably I get bored or tired or lazy and slip up. I am a depressive trying to live my life without medications, and sometimes after work all I want to do is lie in bed. Sometimes I just want browse my favorite websites and not have to think or work or make any substantial effort toward anything. And then the guilt sets in, the feeling that I am not living my life the way I should be, that I am not meeting my potential, that I could be better if I just tried harder, but the energy for such effort just isn’t me.
I have so many doubts. I doubt that my perfect day is possible. Sometimes I think my perfect day is impossible because of the nature of existence, the external imperfection and error and dumb mistakes. Sometimes I think it’s impossible because of me. I could write forever about my history of psychological troubles. I struggle to remain emotionally stable. My romantic relationships (and occasionally my platonic friendships) are tumultuous and brief and intense. At the moment, I am caught up in a very confusing situation with a boy who is leaving for California in two weeks, and it’s bringing out the worst of my co-dependency and clinging and mood swings and depressive thoughts. I doubt that I have the strength to create what I really want in my life. I doubt that I will ever be a stable, mostly optimistic person who can handle life’s curve balls without falling apart. But I have a new therapist who I think is helping to get me on the right path, and sometimes I think maybe contentment is possible for me.
I like getting drunk. For reasons I still don’t understand, I am much happier on mornings when I wake up hung-over. I feel more at peace, more able to tackle the day. Being drunk lets me write more freely. I am drunk right now. But I set limits. I don’t (for the most part) drink unless I don’t have work the next day or until after I’ve taken care of any pressing issues (today, I made myself work on the prescription paperwork I process for my father and take a shower before I opened this bottle of cheap Wal-Mart merlot). Sometimes I am afraid I am on the path to alcoholism. Sometimes I think I can incorporate drunken nights into my perfect days.
I can’t run because of my chronic joint pain. Not that I particularly like running, but I believe it’s a practice that fosters discipline and endurance, both of which I want and need. But I try to be grateful for my mornings, even if they don’t include a refreshing run. The library doesn’t open until ten. I wake up at eight and cook my breakfast and never feel rushed to get out the door.
So maybe the perfect day isn’t possible. Maybe our lives are like mathematical equations with that approach a limit but never reach it. Through hard work and a little luck we can get closer to that perfect day, but our imperfect lives prevent us from ever getting there. Maybe I will always struggle with whether or not tonight is a drinking night or not, whether or not I will I feel okay with not writing for three days straight, whether or not I am can be content with my apartment with very little sunlight and lots of insects but with the potential for a garden in the front.
I discovered this week that Montreal is an extremely possible location for my graduate library science studies. I would be living abroad and be immersed in French, but not overwhelmed by it (I would still be fairly close to home, the school is English, and as long as I continue to work on my French skills, I think life in Montreal is entirely possible for me), which would pave the way for me to go back to France. In the next week, I am going to open a savings account and start saving up the little extra money I have, and there is still the possibility that in the near future I will get a phone call from the full-time library jobs I have applied for. Though I don’t write every day, I feel more confident in my abilities and potential than every before. Every week, I go to my Codependents Anonymous meeting and my French conversation group, both of which bring me a lot of joy and both of which I learn a lot from. In two weeks, my sort-of-but-not-really boyfriend is moving to Santa Cruz to create his perfect day, and as much as I am dreading his departure, I know it is good for me in the long-run that he does so and I am happy that he is going off to do what he really wants to do. I am still struggling with my very intense emotional fluctuations (this has been the worst two weeks in quite a while) but I do like my therapist, and I think once the object of my current unhealthy attachment has relocated to the west, I’ll be able to put more focus on getting better and creating a stable life. This post probably has a lot of errors, but goddammit, I’m writing!
In the same song quoted at the beginning of this post, Björk also sings, “The evening / I’ve always longed for / It could still happen anyway.”
My perfect day is no guarantee, but neither is the a lifetime of the confusion and despondency I am currently wading through. God grant me to courage to see this point of my life through, whoever the fuck you are.